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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
the six-speed automatic can be lazy on the downshifts
the S80 excels at cruising in a straight line, but if you gravitate toward roads with the twists of a small intestine, there are other choices in the segment that are more satisfying
Car and Driver
The 3.2's smooth 6-cylinder provides adequate power but lacks punch compared to V6-powered class rivals and even cars costing thousands less.
Each setting changes the steering response, suspension tightness, and gearbox shift points.
The all-wheel drive does a great job of getting the power to the road and helping to keep the car on-track regardless of conditions.
The 2012 Volvo S80 doesn't quite have the racy looks of the brand's new S60 sport sedan, but it definitely can be equipped with serious go-fast hardware under the hood—a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six in the all-wheel-drive T6.
But while it can move very quickly, the S80 is never all that much fun to drive. That's mostly because of the S80's rather dull steering feel, and the sense that the S80 carries itself with a lot of heft—even if it is quite maneuverable. T6 versions also include an active suspension system that continually adjusts the S80's shocks from Comfort, Sport, and Advanced to fit varied types of driving; it can also tie in with the variable-assist power steering, which ranges from light to firm. That all-wheel drive system in the S80 can send up to 50 percent to the rear wheels when needed, but it's definitely not a car that encourages you to push harder.
Go with the base, 240-hp straight-six and front-wheel drive, and you'll actually have a car that feels a little more agreeable (and nimble and economical).
Actually, the S80, from our experience, seems to specialize in a different kind of performance: the open road. Factor in the firm but comfortable suspension settings, quiet interior, and superb seats--along with good passing power and almost effortless tracking--and the S80 is hands-down one of the best long-distance highway cruisers on the market.
The 2012 Volvo S80 T6 promises some excitement; but for all the S80 models, competence is a more apt way to describe the driving experience.